Question: I thought I would be called back to work by now, or at least be getting unemployment, but neither has come through. My landlord was understanding the first month that I couldn’t pay my rent (June), but now it’s July and I still don’t have the money. Can I get evicted now?
Q: I have a newly remodeled one-bedroom apartment I want to rent out. As a senior on a fixed income, I’m very concerned about a tenant not paying rent. Do you know when Gov. Ige’s proclamation prohibiting eviction for nonpayment of rent expires?
Answer: The short answers are no, a Hawaii tenant cannot yet be evicted for nonpayment of rent. Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation prohibiting such evictions is set to expire July 31 and could be extended beyond that — although an extension has not been officially announced.
These questions illustrate a growing segment of Kokua Line queries, from tenants having trouble paying their rent and from landlords (or prospective ones) asking when their power to evict will be restored. It’s a distressing combination. The Honolulu Board of Realtors found that nearly 40% of Oahu property managers it surveyed had tenants who struggled to pay rent in June, and a larger percentage (45%) expect July to be no better.
For more information about eviction moratoriums, we turned to Dan O’Meara, managing attorney for the housing and consumer unit of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, a nonprofit law firm with broad public outreach. He explained that rules vary according to the type of loan on the property; that when a moratorium is lifted marks the beginning of the eviction process, not the date a tenant must vacate a unit; and that it’s generally in the best interest of both parties to work out a payment plan, especially during this unprecedented pandemic economy.
Tenants should know that moratoriums prevent evictions for nonpayment, but they don’t forgive the actual rent. Landlords should know that going to court is no guarantee of a quick resolution, especially since district courts are likely to be backlogged. Tenants who receive an eviction notice should appear in court as summoned, to prevent an automatic ruling in the landlord’s favor for failing to appear.
Here’s more information from O’Meara:
>> State of Hawaii eviction protection: The state court moratorium on evictions is based on Ige’s emergency proclamation and is scheduled to expire July 31, but that date may be extended. If a tenant is unable to pay rent when the moratorium expires and the property does not have a federally backed mortgage loan, the landlord can provide the tenant five business days’ notice of nonpayment of rent and then start the eviction process. How long that process will take will depend in part on the backlog in District Court. To be clear, a tenant would not be out of the unit on July 31. Moreover, if there is a federally backed mortgage loan on the rental property, different rules apply, even if the state moratorium is lifted July 31 (see below).
>> Federal eviction moratorium protection: Homes with FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans have moratoriums on eviction and foreclosure until at least Aug. 31. Landlords of such properties can provide a 30-day notice for nonpayment of rent starting Sept. 1 and then start the eviction process. Homes with other federally backed mortgage loans, such as VA or USDA, are subject to the 30-day notice for nonpayment until at least July 31. The 30-day notice under the federal moratoriums is not limited to business days. Legal Aid’s website provides links to help people figure out whether their housing is federally backed, as well as template letters to landlords and other useful information.
Go to legalaidhawaii.org and click on “COVID-19 Help & Resources.”
The state Office of Consumer Protection also has useful information. Go to cca.hawaii.gov/ocp and click on “Landlord-Tenant Information” in the right column.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.